'Jumping the Shark' is a term referencing a 1977 episode of Happy Days in which the Fonz, wearing swim trunks and his iconic leather jacket, jumps over a corralled shark while waterskiing. The term has come to reference a show, band, movie franchise, or other medium that has veered away from the original formula that made it work, usually at the expense of quality. Penumbra: Requiem, I?m sorry to say, has just given the thumbs-up and said 'Ayyyyy.'
Review by Carl Lyon
You are still Philip, having survived your internal battle with the sentient Tuurngait virus from the previous two chapters. In a last act of defiance, you e-mailed a friend with the coordinates to your location, hoping to bring in the cavalry to destroy the viral hive-mind that just wants to be left alone. However, as quickly as you send the message you are knocked unconscious and awaken only to find yourself forced to play through a series of self-contained puzzle-oriented levels, collecting the required number of keys to activate a portal out and into the next area. The feeling of suspense and terror that the first two games heaped so liberally upon you have been replaced with a sadly generic, Portal-styled experience, right down to the monotonous GladOS-like voice announcing your key-collecting achievements. The game feels less like a logical continuation of the prior installments and more like a mishmash of half-baked levels cut from the prequels due to time or budget constraints. As a game, it works well: the puzzles are varied and at times quite fun (although a quick note to developer Frictional Games: jumping puzzles in first-person video games are a crappy choice, plain and simple) with a slew of different environments to explore and the series? usual crisp visuals to please the eyes.
Penumbra: Requiem, while a pretty decent game, is just not a very good Penumbra game. We?ve spent two games expecting a certain feeling: fear. We were given that feeling through excellent atmosphere, isolation, and a feeling of helplessness against a small but effective enemy force. Even major changes that the games went through in their first two installments, such as the removal of the rudimentary combat engine, were for the best. The removal of the series' bone chilling atmosphere is a poor decision, to be honest, and one that end the series on a sadly bland note.
An additional change the series went through is the decision to go for an online distribution model through the GamersGate service. While convenient in theory, GamersGate is unwieldy and unfriendly compared to similar services like Steam and GameTap, which certainly doesn't help the situation much. However, for ten bucks, I really don't have much room for complaint.
I know I'm being hard on Requiem, but I feel heartbroken by it. After hitting its apogee with Black Plague (which, by the way, needs to be installed for Requiem to work), it's saddening to see it fall like this. If it were up to me, Black Plague would have sealed the deal, ending our time with Philip on a high note, rather than this sadly askew epilogue.
Fonzie, your legacy lives on yet again.